Every NFL team has to deal with free agency in some form or fashion. Some organizations prefer to build through the draft and eschew big-ticket names on the market. Others attempt to win the NFL offseason and spend freely.
Either way, hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts get signed in a matter of days. Whether that new relationship works depends on a multitude of factors, including some beyond a player’s control. But while some signings can make a dramatic difference, others turn into major flops. Here are five of the worst NFL free agent signings since 2015.
Ndamukong Suh, DT, Miami Dolphins
There may not have been a bigger free agent (figuratively and literally) than Ndamukong Suh. The former No. 2 overall picked developed a reputation as a game-wrecking, violent force in Detroit. But with the Lions already paying top dollar for Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson, the decorated defensive tackle hit free agency after the 2014 season.
The Miami Dolphins made Suh the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history with a whopping $114 million contract. The deal included $60 million guaranteed and obviously came with the expectation that Suh would help turn around the league’s 20th-ranked scoring defense.
Instead, the Dolphins’ defensive struggles continued throughout Suh’s three-year stint in Miami. The Dolphins finished 19th, 18th and 29th in points allowed before the team cut Suh to free up cap space.
Brock Osweiler, QB, Houston Texans
Brock Osweiler should serve as a cautionary tale on why teams should be cautious about paying inexperienced quarterbacks. Though he checked the boxes from a physical standpoint, the former second-round pick never put it all together after a brief breakout as Peyton Manning’s backup.
The 6-foot-7 gunslinger went 5-2 as a fill-in starter before signing a ridiculous $72 million contract with the Houston Texans. After throwing 15 touchdowns and 16 interceptions, Osweiler got traded in an NBA-style salary dump. The Browns received a second-round pick for taking on his contract. That pick turned into Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb.
Malcolm Butler, CB, Tennessee Titans
You couldn’t write a better career arc for Malcolm Butler. At least, up until the last two years. An undrafted free agent out of West Alabama, Butler earned a roster spot thanks to a highly competitive training camp. He became a household name thanks to his game-saving, goal-line interception in Super Bowl XLIX. By the time he became a free agent, he had earned another ring, a second-team All Pro selection and one Pro Bowl selection.
Despite his unceremonious ending in New England’s Super Bowl loss against Philadelphia, Butler drew plenty of interest on the open market. He landed in Tennessee, where he joined former teammate Logan Ryan in the secondary. However, injuries and poor play have made Butler’s $61 million contract look like a massive overpay. The former Super Bowl hero has just five interceptions in 20 starts and could be a cut candidate next offseason.
Nate Solder, LT, New York Giants
Another New England player who cashed in after winning multiple titles, Nate Solder never developed into an All-Pro under Dante Scarnecchia. However, he routinely graded out as a solid left tackle and helped key two Super Bowl runs.
The 6-foot-8 blindside protector signed a then-record four-year, $62 million deal with the New York Giants that included $34.8 million guaranteed. In 2019, Solder allowed 11 sacks and graded out poorly according to Pro Football Focus. With a $19.5 million cap hit and a dead cap hit of $13 million, the Giants are stuck with Solder’s cap-killing contract for at least another year.
Nick Foles, QB, Jacksonville Jaguars
Nick Foles became a legend in Philadelphia for his epic Super Bowl LII performance. While he rightfully earned plenty of praise for his postseason heroics, he has turned out to be one of the worst free-agent signings of the last five years.
After finally moving on from Blake Bortles, Jacksonville handed the journeyman $88 million, including a whopping $50.125 million guaranteed. That was a staggering figure for a quarterback who hadn’t started more than five games since 2015. Foles broke his collarbone just four games into his Jaguars career and watched rookie Gardner Minshew become a fan favorite. Jacksonville can’t even get out of the deal until after this season—at which point they will have paid Foles $46 million.